This week I’ve felt challenged to look at how we use our communications assets – specifically social media.
This week I’ve felt challenged to look at how we use our communications assets – specifically social media.
In late 2016, Fairview started using Breeze ChMS. Breeze is easy to use and their customer service is outstanding.
In early 2017, we went with Ministry Designs for our web site. Easy to use. Great customer service.
We have a theme.
I decided I really wanted to use Breeze as a central “hub” for all church scheduling. I can list our rooms and other areas on campus, enter all event information, and display graphics. Plus I can give all Pastors, Deacons, Ministry Leaders, and Church Members access to view the calendar.
Unfortunately, my other idea to create a separate Breeze Calendar for events that would be displayed on the public calendar wasn’t so easy.
Embed codes weren’t doing what I anticipated and I couldn’t get Breeze and Ministry Designs integrated. I joked: Fairview Baptist Church, Breeze, and Ministry Designs were NOT forming a holy trinity.
Then a few weeks ago, we had integration success. I was able to directly integrate our Breeze calendar to display on our web site.
Success. Fireworks. National Holiday. Happiness.
I literally emailed our Pastors, IT Committee Chairman, and the guy who heads up the Greeters/Connections team at 10pm on a Friday night.
This was going to be great! Now, when I entered an event in the ChMS, and I published it to the public calendar, it would automatically display on the web site. No longer would I have to copy and paste information from the ChMS over to the web site and vice versa. No more chances for typos, different information on the two different sources. If the date and time was changed or updated, if the event description changed, if the location on campus changed…if anything was updated or changed in the ChMS, it automatically went to the web site.
It would also free up some time.
You see, it’s quite common in the ‘church communication world,’ to work long, often-unpaid, hours. A majority of my peers (and I) consider our jobs more of a ministry and less of a ‘job.’ We use the term ‘serve’ rather than ‘work.’ And most of us genuinely enjoy what we do. Because we know we’re serving someone greater (Jesus Christ). Our bosses are usually Pastors – sometimes our own Pastors if we’re blessed enough to also attend the church where we
work serve (who sometimes list Jesus Christ as the ‘contact person’ or ‘event coordinator’ on our communications request forms). You can laugh at that, but it’s true. The web site, social media, and ChMS are just tools we use in getting to play our small part in connecting people to a church family and to Jesus Christ.
And while I certainly don’t mind putting in an extra 10-20 hours a week in ‘service hours,’ there are weeks that it’s just not practical. I do love what I do. In many respects, it’s my hobby. Some people like knitting or horseback riding. I like working with the church management software and the web site. But sometimes, other things (and people) need my attention. I have a husband. I have four kids. I have friends. I’d like to keep all of them around for awhile and not become the crazy cat lady (except instead of cats, it would be fonts).
Plus, it can lead to burn out. Just Google ‘church Pastor burn out.’ You’ll find a lot of articles on not just Pastors, but church staff and volunteers who leave their churches often because of burn out. Nobody wants that. I like my job. I like my church. Since I know what can cause burnout, I’d like to avoid that.
So there it is. This awesome integration that is going to increase accuracy in information, possibly reduce errors, and increase productivity. This is good for the church. This is what’s best.
This sounds like I just won the Church Communications Lottery.
But wait. Take a step back. What else happens?
We’re going to have to retrain group leaders how to take attendance. We’re going to have to take a fresh look at the events page on our web site and how that’s displayed. We’re going to have to look at how small groups are listed (right now it’s publicly displayed as one single ‘Life Groups’ time on Sunday mornings; this would force us to take a look at listing each group separately/individually). [For the record, I’m a fan of listing each group separately.] But this changes what group leaders see when they log in (display). This changes ease-of-use and aesthetics.
So, I decided to pull the plug and keep doing what I’ve been doing.
Wait! What!? Why!? Why pull the plug on the possibly the best software update and integration to date?
A few reasons. I’ve already addressed. It changes ease-of-use and aesthetics. It requires (re) training people who aren’t entirely comfortable with what we have. We’ve had the software less than a year. Not everyone is using it. Not everyone is trained. Those that are, are just now comfortable with it. A few are just now understanding why we use it. It’s too soon to pull the rug out from under them and replace it with a new rug.
Next: why should they trust me? Everything I do is guided by my relationship with Christ. Every decision starts with prayer. I have a few very trusted peers at other churches who work with their ChMS and web sites. I have to use wisdom an discernment and at the end of the day, I believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ and we have to play a part of presenting her blameless and spotless. Unblemished. But – do the church members know that? Do they trust that? I’ve worked there just over a year. Have I earned enough trust to make a change?
I love software updates. I understand why software companies make them and I understand how they (usually) benefit their clients (the churches). But do the church members I serve know that? Have I successfully communicated that to them?
And while organization, administration, accuracy, streamlined productivity, and reduced possibility of burnout is important, there is something more important.
And that is earning trust, setting examples in leadership, and truly loving and caring about the people we get the privilege to serve.
My prayer for all of my church communications peers is that we can know when to look past the processes and procedures and focus on the hearts of the people and recognize our jobs as ministries.
This week I had a video chat with some people of Breeze. They asked me what my favorite part of the software is? I went with what we use the most: sorting and emailing.
But the more I think about it, those might not be my favorite things. Here’s a few things I really like. Not just with Breeze, but also with CCB, and any church management software.
Profile fields that offer ways to help people connect.
Most people profiles are going to contain very basic information: name, address, phone number(s), email. But I love it when we go deeper with custom fields: gifts, talents, abilities, interests. By running regular search reports on those fields, we can help people connect to areas of service – and to other people. Most software companies offer ways to customize your profile fields. Take advantage of those. Then regularly run those reports and make sure people are getting connected.
I’m about to do a whole blog post on why forms are important, but here’s a few key points:
Ensures everyone gets the same information.
Helps with pre-planning and organization
No more “lost” emails. Saved digital record of form submission.
Follow-Ups and Process Queues.
Whatever your software calls them, I love them. When a first time guest is entered into the system, a follow up is assigned to a pastoral staff member (the youth pastor for any new students in the youth group; our senior pastor for any new families). Once that follow up is complete, the Pastor can add notes, and check the ‘complete’ box. Then we run regular reports on completed follow-ups, in conjunction with event attendance reports to see how people where people are connecting.
What are your favorite things?
As I sat down to write this, my son referred to my blog as “mom.com.”
And so begins this ridiculously long blog post about the random things God has been teaching me.
99.99% of the time, this blog is going to be devoted to church management software. Mainly because I like church management software. It’s what I think about for fun.
But I also think about the church web site (which is slowly edging out the church management software for the #1 spot), guest services and assimilation, and handful of other church-y things. And I also don’t forget that it’s about God. It’s about how He is molding us and shaping us into who He wants us to be for His glory. It’s about growth. It’s about change. It’s about connecting people to church and people to people. It’s about facing challenges and recognizing His blessings. It’s about finding peace in the midst of a trial.
And so…every so often…I’m going to break from writing all about church management software and databases and just give you a glimpse into our lives. And how God is working in our family. And what he’s teaching me – as a mom…and in other areas.
This summer has been challenging for our family. Any change – even recognizably good change – brings it’s own set of challenges.
A few weeks ago, my youngest son – who is in public school after 5 years of homeschooling – had a difficult week. There were some things that brought him to tears, which in turn, brought me to tears. And I questioned. I questioned a lot.
Was I supposed to go back to work? Should I still be home with him? What if we’d put him in public school two years ago when we first had an inclination that he might do better in that setting? What if we’d never put him in at all?
So as I was listening to my son’s fears, concerns, and cries. And as I myself was crying and questioning, I received a hand-written note card from my boss. Except that he didn’t write it as a boss. He wrote it from the perspective of a Pastor.
To some of you, this might be nothing. But when I got that card in the mail, I realized he was already thinking of our family as part of the church family and not just of me as an employee. And I realized how grateful I am to serve there.
Then God took it to a whole other level (He always does!).
One of the things my son was struggling with at school was making new friends. He felt a little left out. But this week he received a birthday party invitation and he is extremely happy. And I was able to use this situation to teach him how powerful prayer is. I told him that last week, when he was so unhappy, that we had people praying for him (for both of us), and this week he’d gotten a birthday party invitation. Not only that, but when I called to RSVP, the other boys’ mom seemed genuinely happy that my son was coming. I showed my son the note we’d received from my
boss Pastor, and I made sure he realized how much God loves us.
This week, two other churches contacted me about team structure, leadership development, and volunteer development. I’m not even sure why they contacted me or how they got my name, but it’s truly humbling to think that not only could I play a small part in what God is doing at Fairview Baptist Church, but that He’s allowing me to play a small part in what He’s doing in and through other churches. I always think there are probably 1,000 other people out there more qualified than I am and I am grateful each day for the opportunities He gives me.
In talking to another church leader, I (we) realized that we can approach paid staff (both Pastoral and other) in two ways:
The first is that we can look at them primarily as paid staff members who also attend our church. We look first at their position, title, and authority. We look at their job duties and expectations first, before looking at them as part of the church family. And in some cases, they are never looked at as part of the church family.
The second is that we can look at them as part of the church family, who – because of position, title, authority, and expected duties – we honor and appreciate by giving to them financially.
In a perfect world, I believe you’d see a good blend of both of those views all the time. However, after much discussion, I admitted that as a church staff member, I’d rather see the second. I’d rather be seen as part of the church family first, employee second. One of my favorite quotes is by Tim Keller: Our daily work can be a calling if we reconceive it as God’s assignment to serve others.
What about you? How do you think you are viewed and how would you like to be viewed? Is there a third option we didn’t consider? Or have we completely missed the mark?
And finally this week – I began a new Bible study on the Book of James. And almost immediately, I had to admit how selfish and prideful I’d been in many areas. You see, at our old church, I oversaw the database and first impressions teams. I was always at the info desk which means that I usually had all the info. I entered events into the database, which in turn went to the public calendar (web site) and I created online sign up forms that would be displayed in the lobby.
But going to our new church is different. The person who held this position before me, did not attend, and seeing my face on Sundays is a new thing for some members to process. People have said, “this is new. We’ve never done this before.” I get it. It’s new for us, too. And thus, I have yet to serve on a Sunday. And I miss that.
But maybe in all of this, I’d become too reliant on my own talents and abilities and not fully reliant on Him and what He can do. I found contentment and fulfillment what I did, rather than who I did it for (Him). I took pride in what I had done, not fully giving credit and glory to Him and thanking Him for the gifts and talents He had given me.
This week, I received an email from Google indicating that our searches, clicks on our web site, and other actions had taken a dramatic increase of the past month.
There would have been a time when my immediate response would have been to pat myself on the back. But instead, I found myself ‘speechless’ before God. I could not believe my efforts had produced these results. And I had nothing by thanks for Him.
There are still some things I miss about serving on Sundays – pre-service team prayer, meeting our first time guests and first time guest follow up – to name a few – but I’m also exceedingly grateful that God has given me new opportunities to learn and grow in other areas.
Tonight in the car, my youngest son said, “Mom, the Bible is 100% true. All of it.”
And with that, I’ll get back to Church Management Software and processes. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our family’s life. Until next time…
Recently my husband and I went on a vacation. I found myself one day, wandering the market, looking at souvenirs. Should I buy the kids t-shirts they’ll grow out of? Should I buy jewelry, toys, trinkets? Will they like the style and color of jewelry I pick out? Or will it sit in a drawer – never worn? Will the kids play with the toys? Will they break? Will they fight over them? Will the trinkets sit on a shelf, collecting dust, becoming a burden?
As I wandered the market – each booth blending and blurring together – items at one seemingly identical to the others – my mind drifted to our church management software.
I love that fact that we customize our fields. And that we can add additional custom fields. But are we taking it too far in some cases? Are we creating fields that are unmanageable? Want to track people’s favorite foods for the next church-wide dinner? We can do that. Want to know their favorite music? Their favorite restaurants? Their favorite type of cheese? We can do all of that. Under the profile fields, I’ll add in a field for favorite cheese.
But what happens if the church grows exponentially? What happens when the cheese ministry leader gets called to another ministry? Say, maybe, the fruit ministry?
And now – when you export that spreadsheet – there are huge gaps – missing information. And then we spend our time trying to chase down information, filling gaps that ultimately, may not be that important.
At the end of our shopping, I realized that the best ‘souvenir’ I could bring home, was a well-rested, clear-headed, refreshed and renewed version of myself. One that wasn’t feeling distracted or irritated. A version of myself that wasn’t stressed from trying to pack breakables into an already full suitcase or stressed whether someone would like the jewelry or toys I’d picked out.
Take a look at your profile fields. Do you need to know all of them? Is it time to get back to the basics? Look at what you’re realistically using the software for and what you want out of it. I have a friend who compares life to shooting. You aim first, then shoot. You don’t fire and hope it lands somewhere near the target.
Decide why you have the software and what you really want and need it to do. Build your profile fields around that.
Chances are, you don’t need to keep track of favorite restaurants…or cheese.
“Mom, can I have the keys to the car? I’d like to go out.”
“Sure, son. See you soon.”
Except that ‘son’ hasn’t passed a driver’s test. He doesnt’ have his license. He never even gotten his permit. He hasn’t taken Driver’s Ed class. And he’s never driven this car.
Would you do it?
I hope not.
And yet, we do it every day with our software access.
New staff member? You get staff access.
New ministry team leader? You get ‘group leader’ status.
New teacher? Don’t forget to take attendance.
Software administrators get frustrated when data is entered outside of the boundaries of standard operating procedures.
Executive Pastors get frustrated when their end reports are inaccurate.
And our new-hires and ministry leaders are frustrated because they don’t know what they did wrong.
Here are a few things that can help avoid some uncomfortable situations and unwanted scenarios:
1. Training. This is my favorite word. Set aside some intentional training time for new-hires, new group leaders, no ministry directors, etc. Make it part of the onboarding process. The more access they have, the more training they need.
2. Continuing Education. Just as software administrators receive emails from software companies regarding software updates, so should the people using the software. Anytime there is a software that will effect their area of ministry, make time to talk to them about it.
3. Clear Expectations. Do the teachers know they are supposed to take attendance? Do the ministry team leaders understand they are expected to use the software to plan events and schedule volunteers? Do group leaders know this is used as the primary means of communication? Make sure they know what’s expected.
4. Written Documentation of Policies. Written documentation protects you from being accused of favoritism. There’s temptation to make one person sit through an hour-long training session, while you let another person slide because you know he or she is a computer genius and has a PhD in Computer Science. Don’t do it. Develop a set of standards. Write them down. Everyone should follow policy.
5. Revoke Privileges. This is my least favorite thing to do. If you break a traffic law, your license could get suspended or revoked. If someone is using the software in a way that is causing you to consistently go in behind them and “fix” or “undo” what they’ve done, revoke their privileges and have a private conversation with them. Chances are very good they simply forgot to do something or this topic was overlooked in the original training. In most cases, privileges can be reinstated after they’ve had a ‘software refresher course.’
The good news is that most of the current ChMS programs on the market today, have ways to fix, or undo, any data entry errors. Also remember that this is just a software program – a tool in the process – and that any relationship with a co-worker, fellow church member, and friend is to be treasured far more than the systems, processes, and tools we use.
Let’s face it. There isn’t a lone single Church Management Software that will fit every church. If there were, there would be no marketplace competition. There would be no comparison charts. There would be one software that offered all of the features that every church needs.
It doesn’t exist.
It’s why churches spend months, sometimes years, making a decision on which software to use. It’s why people play with demo versions in their free time and offer suggestions to churches on which software they should use. It’s why churches sometimes switch to different companies based on their growing and changing needs.
Even some software companies themselves will tell you when their software doesn’t meet your church’s needs. Sometimes, they’ll even help migrate your data for free.
But, at the end of the day, sometimes we have features we just don’t care for, we find it difficult to navigate, or what we want isn’t offered within that software.
This can be particularly frustrating for those ministry leaders who aren’t tasked with using the software on a daily basis. Perhaps you’re a small group leader and you’ve been told you need to use the software for small group messaging and attendance. What’s wrong with the way you’ve been doing it? Perhaps you’re a ministry team leader who has recently been told you need to use the software for volunteer scheduling? What’s wrong with our old calendar-grid spreadsheets?
While nothing is ‘wrong’ with the way you’ve been doing things, sometimes church leaders need data that can only come from using a church management software.
Typically areas of the software are linked, or fields are auto-updated This means the church leaders don’t need to assimilate data from different spreadsheets and emails. The software takes care of that for them, which saves them valuable time.
Here’s some suggestions if you find yourself in a position of ‘just not liking it’:
Remember, there’s no perfect software and sometimes, even when we think we’ve found the best one, there are aspects that just don’t work the way want them to.
Trust your church leaders and know we’re all on the same team!
Helping our college-aged children make decisions about their future, and one of our younger children starting a new school, and planning a family vacation, and and and…
…wasn’t enough change.
Nope. Not enough change for our family.
Earlier this year, God also called us to a new church. And sometimes, even when you know it’s God, and even when your joy is found in following His will, it’s tough.
Very rarely on this blog will I mention a church by name. I know a lot of people at a lot of churches and para-church organizations and because of our professional relationships, I get to know things about their churches and organizations and we talk about what’s happening and how they are navigating their own challenges.
But I’m about to mention this church. Because they are setting an example.
We began attending in June,
However, we have not taken the next step to join with the church as members.
And then this week…
There was a death in my family. And I was faced with booking some last minute travel and making some last minute schedule changes.
So here we are: having left one church; not yet members of another. And I had a second moment of feeling alone.
But unlike some other areas of my life, the church we are attending is displaying Jesus and showing his love. This church – these people – have reached out to me in so many ways.
I sent an email to the Pastor around 11pm on Monday. On Tuesday morning I woke up to emails and texts (he had used the database to email the prayer team…since this blog is all about databases and processes). One person actually wrote out a prayer for me and my family in an email. Throughout the day on Tuesday I received calls, more emails, more texts.
My boss himself is stepping in to handle some things that should fall directly on my shoulders. He’s picking up my responsibilities. Servant Leadership.
So thank you, Fairview Baptist Church. Words cannot express how much I thank you for what you have shown our family and how grateful we are to know yours.
Recently God called our family to make a change. It many ways it wasn’t an easy decision. It meant taking a new look at things we’d always felt were right or wrong. It meant going someplace we said we’d never go.
But in other ways it was easy. Because after a lot of prayer, counsel, and discernment, we knew it was where God was calling us.
This change also meant a new routine and thus, I find myself not regularly seeing the friends I had been seeing regularly.
Yet, I haven’t really connected with a new group of friends.
The old group of friends can’t understand why we’d make this decision.
The new group people seem like they already have their circles.
And I feel like this:
And I remember, that with God, I’m never truly alone. He’s got a plan, a purpose and a reason for this season.
Does this happen in our churches?
What about our church guests?
When I run a report of first time guests who didn’t return for a second visit, I want to hear their voices.
I want to ask:
Did you feel welcome or unwanted?
Was there confusion and chaos or did you feel calmness and clarity?
Did you feel alone or did you feel like you were among family?
Every Sunday we have first time guests who are doing something they’ve never done before: coming to our church. Which means, they aren’t doing whatever it was they did any previous Sunday.
Any change has the potential to cause someone to feel alone.
I pray this is never the case in our churches.
This morning I posted about giving support to. You can read the entire post here.
It started like this:
This week I had some issues with the web site and the database.
I had confidence in my own abilities.
I can do this.
I read through support documentation. I watched videos.
In the end I had to call tech support.
What did I get?
After-hours, personal, customer service and tech support.
Above and beyond the call of duty.
(And somehow, in each case, they were able to maintain the integrity of their own brand, and let me know the boundaries.)
Can I change the colors? Yes.
Can I change the fonts? No.
Can I upload media on a Saturday night at 8pm when the site editor seems to be locked up?
Absolutely. Yes. You can. We are here to help!
It’s still Saturday night at 8pm, what happened to my menu colors?
We’re working on it.
Can I change the fonts?
And then – at the end of each call – I had the support rep. ask if they could pray for me, for our church, and for our business (the mission) we are working on together.
Think about this cycle: I called with a degree of frustration in my voice (and in my heart), I had people who set aside whatever they were doing to help me – to listen to my frustrations and walk with me through the problem-solving process, and at the end of it, we were praying together.
And I thought…
I summed up all of the thoughts I had about how I serve people.
But I also thought…
About how we receive support. And from whom.
How often do I try to do it all alone? And then, when I do need help, is my first thought to pray? To ask God for His help? To ask God what He wants?
While I was trying to make things happen in my time – and before I called support – I called friends. One friend knew a lot about databases, processes, and web sites, but knew very little about the church. Another friend knows a lot about church structures, but very little about database applications. So when I finally called proper support, I was thoroughly confused (and frustrated).
I think this has a broader application. When you’re going through a challenging time or trying to solve a problem, where is the first place you turn? Do you turn to friends who may not know about the situation? Are they giving you biblically-based and sound advice or do they tell you what you want to hear? Does acting on their advice create more confusion?
God wants us to come to Him first. Believe and trust His answers. Believe and trust He will make a way.
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